GREEN MACHINE: Sustainable development was the theme of a Fashion Matters talk featured on the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode’s online Men’s Fashion Week platform on Saturday in partnership with television network Canal+.
“The COVID-19 pandemic brought a short halt in overconsumption and manufacturing for many individuals and businesses, providing us with a glimpse of how quickly our planet could heal, if we were to care better and live in a more responsible way,” said presenter Camille Charrière.
The panel was made up of Agnès B. designer Agnès Troublé, Germanier’s Kevin Germanier, Officine Générale’s Pierre Mahéo and Pascaline Wilhelm, fashion director at Première Vision. Model and eco campaigner Amber Valletta opened the session.
“This has been a time to reset and reprioritize many systems that we’re living in,” Valletta said via webcam. “It’s an opportunity to reset, restart and rethink how we make everything, how we discard our clothing, how we think about the supply chain and those who work in the supply chain.”
Troublé, a pioneer when it comes to sustainability in fashion, summed up her vision: “Respect, respect of people, respect of customers, respect of the people I work with, trying to manufacture in France as much as possible,” she said, highlighting her cardigan, the famous Snap design introduced in 1979. “I don’t like fashion. I love clothes, I love doing my work, designing, but I always try to do clothes forever,” she said.
The panel discussed the complexity of moving towards a more sustainable fashion ecosystem, taking into account the full supply chain – from working conditions and fabric treatments to delivery – in decision-making, by moving towards manufacturing garments closer to where yarns are produced, for example.
Mahéo said he had shifted his denim sourcing to Spain and Italy, instead of importing from Japan. “It’s pretty simple, but if you do that on every level, it’s already a big step,” he said.
The panelists also addressed the issue of by-products of the industry like wrappings and hangers. Mahéo said he had challenged his teams to using 100 percent recycled polyester bags by 2021, for example, but that this in itself represented a challenge in terms of sourcing, as the environmental impact of such solutions is high if they cannot be produced locally.
Wilhelm questioned the issue of plastic-bashing, meanwhile, highlighting the complexity of decision-making around sustainability. “Polyester is not only bad, because polyester can be recycled and recycled and recycled,” she said. “There is never one [truth].”
Consumer education is also key, the panelists said – for example encouraging people to look at labels and make conscious decisions about purchasing – particularly as younger generations embrace transparency and penalize brands accordingly. “I’m confident in young people, they are more and more interested,” said Troublé.
“If we are all honest, we know that to be more sustainable means to buy much much less,” said Charrière.
“Under a certain price,” added Mahéo, ”we all know there is blood on the T-shirt.”
“Look at the tag, and next time you buy something, ask do I really need it,” added Germanier.